“Sometimes the human being still wins from our robots”

Conquer the market with a manually packed end product. That is what plant manager Eric Vlassak strives for. Under his enthusiastic leadership, thirty ‘rigid boxes’ for a well-known home & body brand roll off the line every minute in our Personal Care factory. Folded and glued. But that is just the beginning.  


‘’Our employees manually insert the inlay and beauty products then,” Eric explains. “Then they press the lid on and tie a nice ribbon around the packaging. Ready to give as a present. Anywhere in the world."


Flexible thanks to manual packaging

Eric started the new production line three years ago. In close cooperation with the marketing department of the home & body brand, because everything has to be right at a product with a feeling. Every tube is placed in the box in the same way: with the logo exactly in the middle. “We are never satisfied”, says Eric. "Together we are continuously working on improvements and the theme of sustainability." 


As a result, parts in the production process sometimes change, whereby the advantage of manual packaging immediately comes to light. Eric: “People are simply more flexible than machines. Moreover, thanks to our human work, we are a one-stop-shop for customers: small runs and specials come also from our factory.”


“People are simply more
flexible than machines”

Eric Vlassak, operational manager Vetipak Personal Care


Ergonomic workplaces

For machines maintenance and repairs are unavoidable. Actually there is no difference with humans. But of course preventing hiccups is much better. That is why Eric works very precisely to keep his employees healthy. “Our employees come to work fit and so they must go home fit also,” explains the plant manager.


“When setting up the packaging line, we pay a lot of attention to ergonomic workplaces. For example, we look at attitude and environmental factors, such as vibrations and noises. We also rotate a lot, so employees are using all muscles and do not always perform the same action.”


A great driven team

Logically, this approach benefits the resilience. Eric knows better than anyone how he can express these in figures. He calculates the maximum number of actions per minute, based on a fixed productivity principle. “I am not a 'hunter', but I do want to get the most out of people. Together with my team leaders, I try to ensure that our employees run between 97 and 105 percent of their maximum capacity every day.”


Do they shoot far below or above? Then Eric takes a critical look at the targets: are they realistic? Because according to Eric, that is an important detail to motivate his employees. And he has more sticks in the fire. “I share knowledge. And I dare to give people freedom and make them co-responsible. That trickles down to the production department. Partly because of this, there is a great driven team.”


"I want to make many more products
which make the difference!""

Eric Vlassak, operational manager Vetipak Personal Care


The near future

Even though Vetipak is a forerunner in automation; Eric is convinced that manual packaging has a long life. “Sometimes people still beat the robot. For small editions with a wide variety of actions and additions I don't even start calculating with machines. But even if only two actions have to be performed, I like to take on the challenge with the robot. Not to win necessarily, but to make sure we find the best solution.”


“About twenty to twenty-five percent of what we package within Personal Care is done manually,” Eric concludes. “I predict that this will remain the case in the near future, because the demand for special products will continue to exist and the required flexibility sometimes can only be solved with people. And that is a good thing. Because if I am no longer allowed to work with people, I will stop. Together with my colleagues, I want to make many more products which make the difference!”